The Chore Challenge: Teaching Kids Responsibility

More Ideas to Teach Kids Responsibility

Pitch in Together

Sure, you're not always going to want to do your chores at the same time as your child does hers. But saying something like, "Help me straighten up the house. I'll do my bedroom, and you do yours" will help get a reluctant kid started. 'Young children seem to respond better when household tasks are presented as a shared family responsibility," says Akabas. "Of course, you do a lot of housework, but your child is oblivious to much of it."

Think Like Mary Poppins

That iconic nanny knew that chores don't have to be boring. "By incorporating some fun into tasks, you can improve your kid's attitude about helping with housework," says Lea Schneider, author of Growing Up Organized: A Mom-to-Mom Guide. Put on some music and encourage him to sing or dance while he's cleaning up. (That's why that cleanup song in preschool is so effective.) Or create contests to keep him interested -- and help messes evaporate -- such as "Let's see how many toys we can put away before this song finishes playing" or "I wonder if you could tear all this lettuce into little pieces for a salad by the time I'm done slicing the veggies."

Start a Reward System

I finally got Zoe in a good place with her chores by offering to do something special with her when the job was done. For once-a-week family cleanups, I'd say something like, "If you put all your Groovy Girls into a bin, then you, Dad, and I can go for a bike ride on the greenway." To keep up with her two everyday responsibilities -- making her bed and setting the table -- I customized an online chore chart that allows her to check off her work daily. (You can get one at parents.com/chore-chart.) At the end of a productive week, she earns an extra storytime or we all watch a movie of her choice. "Letting your child know that you'll have time for a fun activity if she completes her chores quickly is much more effective than offering an allowance for chores," says Akabas. "If you pay your child, it becomes difficult to persuade her to help with anything without giving her money."

Originally published in the February 2011 issue of Parents magazine.

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